With Oppenheimer generating so much talk about Christopher Nolan, there still might be some that are maybe unfamiliar with his work, and why this director/writer/producer is so highly regarded. In short, one of the main reasons why he has become so well-known is because of his take on The Caped Crusader in The Dark Knight, and with 2023 celebrating 15 years since its release, we thought it might be a good time to reflect on the movie, and attempt to uncover why it achieved such critical acclaim.
The Legacy of The Dark Knight
When Batman Begins was released in 2005, fans were not ready for what Christopher Nolan was going to do to one of the most iconic superheroes to ever exist. He stripped back that ridiculous feeling that emitted from predecessors like Batman Forever & Batman & Robin and based his vision of Bruce Wayne/Batman in a much more solidified way. Ultimately, it felt like Bruce Wayne was living in the same world as us. With a stomping soundtrack from Hans Zimmer (You can hear it right now can’t you?) along with a whole host of legendary performances from Cillian Murphy (Fun fact, Cillian Murphy auditioned for the role of Batman before becoming Scarecrow), Liam Neeson (Ra’s al Ghul), Michael Caine (Alfred Pennyworth), to name just a few, Batman Begins was a monumental hit and a refreshing reminder of how important this DC character is. As the title suggests, it was just a taste of things to come, and what came next was something truly special…
If you ask anyone in the street to name a Batman villain, the first one that would come to mind for most is The Joker! When it was confirmed that The Joker would be making an appearance in The Dark Knight, fans and cinema attendees alike went into complete overdrive with excitement. Let’s not forget though, that at the time, fans were skeptical of Nolan’s decision to pick Heath Ledger as The Joker due to him being famous for projects that some thought weren’t in a similar vein to the seriousness of The Dark Knight, but when the credits started to roll, Nolan earned trust, and Heath proved every single doubter wrong. Heath Ledger’s take on The Joker is nothing short of iconic, and as someone who watched this film in the cinema when it came out, I can still remember just how silent the audience was every time Heath did a scene, his laugh, and frenzied presence was terrifying. Michael Caine famously mentioned how scared he was to just be on set with Heath when he was in costume as The Joker, and I believe him. With his unfortunate passing, The Dark Knight is just a snapshot of Heath’s diverse acting ability, and as a viewer, you can’t help but wonder what incredible roles he would have taken on next if he was still with us. A tragic loss to say the least.
Now, I haven’t mentioned Christian Bale’s take on Batman yet, so let’s get stuck into that. In short, he is in my opinion one of the best Batman’s we have ever seen. He nailed the voice, and his nipple-free look as the Batman itself, is a modern, spot-on style, that again harks realism. Christian glues the plot together, he gives us a professional and streamlined Batman/Bruce Wayne, whilst giving space for supporting characters to thrive. Also, when it comes to cinematography, it doesn’t get much cooler than watching his version of Batman cruise around the streets of Gotham on his Batmobile, or Batbike, with Hans Zimmer’s heart-pounding soundtrack racing in the background. Going back to realism, that is certainly another key reason why this movie has lasted the test of time, and practical effects are nothing short of legendary here. There’s that classic sequence where Nolan flips a whole truck (this is NOT CGI), and the opening sequence with zip lines, clowns, and a bank robbery, instantly pulls in the viewer. Encasing the movie are standout performances from Aaron Eckhart (Harvey Dent), Maggie Gyllenhaal (Rachel Dawes), Gary Oldman (James Gordon), Morgan Freeman (Lucius Fox) and not forgetting a breakout role from David Dastmalchian. Just like Batman Begins, The Dark Knight features an outstanding cast.
There are a ton of reasons why The Dark Knight is so well known (You could write an essay on the importance of each main character alone!), and this article only covers just some of those crucial points, so why not celebrate its 15th anniversary by revisiting the movie today.